Construction on E. Vancouver apartment complex may begin in June

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
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Construction could begin in June on a housing project in the works for several years, providing a promise of new affordable living space for residents of east Vancouver.

The 152-unit, $30 million First Street Apartments complex is expected to open in early 2015 on Southeast First Street about two blocks east of 164th Avenue. The Vancouver Housing Authority is developing the project as affordable rental housing, using the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program as a funding source.

"We're anticipating 75 percent will be low-income units," which means the inhabitants' income can't exceed 60 percent of the median annual income in Clark County, said Roy Johnson, the VHA's executive director.

Clark County's annual median — half make more, half make less — for a four-person family is $73,400. The benchmark of 60 percent of annual median income works out to be $44,000 or less per year for a family of four. Monthly rents for units rented to people in that income category will range from $600 for a studio to $950 for a three-bedroom apartment. Of the 114 low-income units, Johnson said 30 units will be designated for people who receive Section 8 housing vouchers, which provide rent subsidies.

The remaining 38 units will be rented at market rates. "The market-rate units help support the whole project as a source of debt repayment," Johnson said.

The project will be funded by $8 million from the housing authority, as well as the sale of tax credits and bond financing.

The housing authority purchased the project's 9-acre tract for $1.1 million in 2010 as a foreclosed site. That price was about 40 percent less than it was in 2006, when housing developers bought the site for $1.8 million, according to county records.

Johnson said Clark County and the city of Vancouver supplied the funding to buy the property from Liberty Bank, which had acquired the property through foreclosure. The city and county money came from stimulus funds available through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program for low-income housing, he said.

Housing authority officials liked the east Vancouver site, near the north-south arterials Southeast 164th and 192nd avenues, which are major commuter routes.

"We just knew this was the site we wanted to develop next," Johnson said.

The housing agency has added few new developments to its portfolio over the past four years, contributing to a shortage of affordable housing as demand has grown, he said,

"Two of those four years, we built nothing," he said.

Upgrades for seniors

Over the past two years, the housing authority completed the $7.7 million, 51-unit Camas Ridge workforce housing complex. It also completed work on the $16 million Vista Court, a 76-unit complex for low-income seniors in downtown Vancouver next door to the agency's 100-unit Van Vista complex for seniors at 410 W. 13th St.

Because the two buildings share the same block, residents of both complexes will benefit from a $3 million project to add a 3,000-square-foot dining facility and community room to the north side of Van Vista's ground floor, said Steve Towell, the VHA's communications director.

That project also includes plans to remodel the first-floor offices in Van Vista and its entire 10th floor, which will be converted from dining and kitchen space into an activity area, a laundry facility, an independent living skills assessment kitchen and office space.

"They also will go through each of the units and replace the baseboard heating" with updated heating and cooling systems," Towell said. "The whole project will take anywhere from 10 to 12 months."

Editor's note: This story has been modified to reflect a correction. The VHA's Camas Ridge apartment project was a $7.7 million project. The number was incorrect in an earlier version of the story.